Susanna J. Sturgis   Martha's Vineyard writer and editor
writer editor born-again horse girl

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My New Purple Toy

August 23, 2005

My exercise ball arrived last Friday, meaning that I finally got to the post office on Friday and there it was. Sunday night, in a fit of procrastination (I was wading through endless endnotes -- aren't all endnotes endless? -- for the copyediting job that I shipped off this afternoon), I opened the box, removed the compactly folded, vaguely gelatinous object from its protective tissue, and blew it up with the hand pump (included). Inflated, it's a satisfying light purple color, about 55 centimeters in diameter, and ringed with latitude marks from pole to pole. Sitting next to my desk where I can keep an eye on it, it might be auditioning for Holst's The Planets, in which it would of course play Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity.

I still can't believe that I've bought a piece of exercise equipment. I'm pretty much allergic to the concept of exercise -- not physical activity, mind you, but exercise. Exercise is hair shirt and self-flagellation updated for the modern era. The ascetics of bygone ages had to curb their bodies lest their sinful flesh imperil their immortal souls. These days we worry primarily about our sinful flesh raging out of control and GETTING FAT. In some circles it's not cool to admit this, so we talk about getting strong and healthy instead. Believe me, for most women in particular deep down it's really about fear of fat -- and also about fear of getting older, but smart people won't admit that out loud because, short of committing suicide, they really can't avoid getting older and why pretend otherwise?

When Ginny, my barnmate and my horse's landlady, went away in July, I babysat her exercise ball. We got to be great buddies, that ball and I. I could sit on that ball and rotate my hips like a belly dancer, flexing muscles that only belly dancers and horseback riders know they have. I could work on my balance -- lifting one foot into the air till I could do it without the ball threatening to tip me onto the floor. Not only did I have a new way to procrastinate when I got sick of manipulating words, I could procrastinate constructively. Who could argue with that? I even heard of some editor colleagues who used these exercise balls as desk chairs. This sounds like much more fun than the office chair I've got now.

So now I have an exercise ball of my own -- what to tell my friends so they won't think I've sold out?

While doing barn chores this morning, I realized, Hey! I don't think of Allie as "exercise equipment," although riding and looking after her and her buddies sure provide plenty of exercise. Back in my D.C. days, I didn't think of my bicycle as exercise equipment either: she was Blue Mist II, my urban horse, a trusty means of transportation.

Exercise equipment is the stuff people buy when they're hung over with New Year's resolutions. Within one month or a few, it's advertised in the Bargain Box or dragged out for a yard sale, to be happened upon by the next sucker who thinks a NordicTrac or an exercycle will propitiate whatever deity accepts vows like "I have to lose ten pounds by next Friday" or "I'm going to run in the Chilmark Road Race next year."

I would never, ever do that to my new purple toy. A good procrastination technique is hard to find, and those who find them don't dump them at yard sales. I'm even thinking that my purple ball could use a buddy, a 65- or 75-centimeter model that I could use as a desk chair. I could swivel while I work, and while I'm not working too.

 

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